Question for written answer
to the Commission
Rule 130


Subject: Language discrimination case: sanction for speaking in Catalan with Spanish policemen at Barcelona airport

Xavier Casanovas, a university professor, has been fined EUR 601 for having spoken in Catalan to a Spanish police officer at the passport control at Barcelona airport.(1) Agents justify the sanction by claiming that Casanovas ā€˜disturbed their work addressing them in Catalanā€™. Catalan is an official language in Catalonia. The incident occurred in September 2016.
When the passport control agent ordered him to speak in Spanish, Casanovas refused, at which the police warned that he could miss his flight if he did not yield. The police officer told him that speaking in Catalan was ā€˜disrespectfulā€™.
Casanovas passed through the control, but the agent, accompanied by a policeman, went to look for him in the queue for boarding passengers, where they again asked for his passport in order to record his personal data.
Six months afterwards he was sanctioned ā€˜in connection with the protection regulations of public securityā€™ ā€” the so-called ā€˜Spanish gag lawā€™.
Discrimination on the basis of linguistic background is expressly prohibited under Article 21 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
1. What steps has the Commission taken, or will it take, to prevent such discrimination?
2. Is the Commission considering including a ban on discrimination on the grounds of language when implementing the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme 2014-2020?

Answer by JourovĆ”
Any discrimination based on inter alia language or membership of a national minority is prohibited under Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. However, according to Article 51(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the provisions of the Charter are only addressed to the Member States when they are implementing EU law.

Pursuant to Article 4 (2) of the Treaty on European Union the Union shall respect the national identities of Member States, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government.

The regime of co-official languages to be used by and before national public bodies pertains to those fundamental structures. It is thus for national authorities to ensure that fundamental rights are respected to as provided by its national constitutions and in accordance with international legal obligations.

The Commission makes available funding through the Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme (2014-2020) [1] to public or private organisations willing to promote non-discrimination. The latest call for proposal, the pilot project “Europe of diversities” [2] aims to fund projects to foster multicultural and multilingual dialogue between the EU citizens on local and regional level.


Maltese Version

SuĔĔett: Każ ta’ diskriminazzjoni abbażi tal-lingwa: issanzjonat minħabba li tkellem bil-Katalan ma’ pulizija Spanjoli fl-ajruport ta’ Barċellona

Xavier Casanovas, professur universitarju, Ä”ie mmultat EUR 601 talli kellem lil uffiċjal tal-pulizija Spanjol bil-Katalan fiż-żona tal-kontroll tal-passaporti fl-ajruport ta’ Barċellona.(1) L-aÄ”enti qalu li s-sanzjoni kienet Ä”ustifikata minħabba li Casanovas ā€œfixkel il-ħidma tagħhom meta indirizzahom bil-Katalanā€. Il-Katalan huwa lingwa uffiċjali fil-Katalunja. Il-każ seħħ f’Settembru 2016.
Meta l-aÄ”ent tal-kontroll tal-passaporti ordnalu jitkellem bl-Ispanjol, Casanovas irrifjuta, u l-pulizija wissieh li seta’ jitlef it-titjira tiegħu jekk jibqa’ jwebbes rasu. L-uffiċjal tal-pulizija qallu li l-fatt li kellmu bil-Katalan kien ā€œnuqqas ta’ rispettā€.
Casanovas għadda mill-kontroll, iżda l-aÄ”ent, flimkien ma’ pulizija, marru jfittxuh fil-kju għall-imbark tal-passiĔĔieri, fejn reÄ”għu talbuh il-passaport tiegħu sabiex jirreÄ”istraw id-data personali tiegħu.
Sitt xhur wara, Ä”ie ssanzjonat ā€œb’rabta mar-regolamenti dwar il-ħarsien tas-sigurtĆ  pubblikaā€ ā€” l-hekk imsejħa ā€œliÄ”i sarima Spanjolaā€.
Id-diskriminazzjoni abbażi tal-isfond lingwistiku hija pprojbita espressament skont l-Artikolu 21 tal-Karta tad-Drittijiet Fundamentali tal-UE.
1. Il-Kummissjoni x’passi ħadet, jew biħsiebha tieħu, biex tevita tali diskriminazzjoni?
2. Il-Kummissjoni qed tikkunsidra tinkludi projbizzjoni fuq diskriminazzjoni abbażi tal-lingwa fl-implimentazzjoni tal-Programm tad-Drittijiet, l-Ugwaljanza u ċ-Ċittadinanza 2014-2020?

TweĔiba mogħtija msi-Sinjura JourovƔ
Kull diskriminazzjoni bbażata fuq, inter alia, il-lingwa jew l-appartenenza għal minoranza nazzjonali hija pprojbita skont l-Artikolu 21 tal-Karta tad-Drittijiet Fundamentali tal-Unjoni Ewropea. Madankollu, skont l-Artikolu 51(1) tal-Karta tad-Drittijiet Fundamentali tal-Unjoni Ewropea, id-dispożizzjonijiet tal-Karta huma indirizzati lill-Istati Membri biss meta dawn ikunu qed jimplimentaw il-liĔi tal-UE.

Skont l-Artikolu 4(2) tat-Trattat dwar l-Unjoni Ewropea, l-Unjoni għandha tirrispetta l-identitajiet nazzjonali tal-Istati Membri, inerenti fl-istrutturi fundamentali tagħhom, politiċi u kostituzzjonali, inkluża l-awto-governanza lokali u reÄ”jonali.

Ir-reÄ”im tal-lingwi kouffiċjali li għandhom jintużaw minn u quddiem korpi pubbliċi nazzjonali tirrigwarda dawn l-istrutturi fundamentali. Bā€™hekk hija r-responsabbiltĆ  tal-awtoritajiet nazzjonali li jiżguraw li d-drittijiet fundamentali jiÄ”u rrispettati kif previst fil-kostituzzjonijiet nazzjonali tagħhom u fā€™konformitĆ  mal-obbligi legali internazzjonali.

Il-Kummissjoni tagħmel il-finanzjament disponibbli permezz tal-programm tad-Drittijiet, l-Ugwaljanza u ċ-Ċittadinanza (2014-2020) [1] għal organizzazzjonijiet pubbliċi jew privati li huma lesti li jippromwovu n-nondiskriminazzjoni. L-aħħar sejħa għall-proposti, il-proÄ”ett pilota ā€œEwropa tad-diversitajietā€ [2] għandu l-għan li jiffinanzja proÄ”etti li jrawmu djalogu multikulturali u multilingwi bejn iċ-ċittadini tal-UE fil-livell lokali u reÄ”jonali.


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